"All These Vows--Kol Nidre" Edited by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

People who attend no other Jewish religious services go out of their way to be present on Yom Kippur eve just to hear Kol Nidre chanted. Yet the prayer is in medieval Aramaic, which no one understands, and may not even have a translation supplied, since the prayer’s content defies moral logic. Kol Nidre is a blanket request that God hold us guiltless for vows we make and do not honor. Judaism demands, however, just the reverse. We must honor promises we make. How then did this prayer come into being? Why was it retained? How did it attract the most haunting chant in all of Jewish tradition?

“If it is the High Holy Days, we are to leave with the conviction that we are indeed mortal beings, that we do balance good and evil, sometimes giving in to the latter at the expense of the former; that there is indeed a divine presence before whom we stand; and that we can, with proper repentance and resolve, wipe the slate clean and begin anew with all the promise of a world re-created, a child reborn, a mind reformed, and a conscience reawakened,” writes Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D. in ALL THESE VOWS—Kol Nidre (Jewish Lights / September 2011 / Hardcover / $24.99). “This [Prayers of Awe] series aims at such a liturgical reawakening.”

Through a series of lively commentaries, over thirty contributors—men and women, scholars and rabbis, artists and poets, spanning three continents and all major Jewish denominations—examine Kol Nidre’s theology, usage, and deeply personal impact. They trace the actual history of the prayer and attempts through the ages to emend it, downplay it and even do away with it—all in vain. They explore why Kol Nidre remains an annual liturgical highlight that is regularly attended even by Jews who disbelieve everything the prayer says.

 

ALL THESE VOWS—Kol Nidre is the second volume in the Prayers of Awe series designed to explore the High Holy Day liturgy and enrich the praying experience for everyone—whether experienced worshipers or guests who encounter Jewish prayer for the very first time.

 

Contributors: 

            Rabbi Tony Bayfield, CBE, DD
            Dr. Annette M. Boeckler
            Dr. Marc Zvi Brettler
            Dr. Erica Brown
            Dr. Eliezer Diamond
            Rabbi Ruth Durchslag, PsyD
            Rachel Farbiarz
            Rabbi Edward Feinstein
            Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand
            Rabbi Andrew Goldstein, PhD
            Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, PhD
            Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur
            Rabbi Elie Kaunfer
            Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar
            Dr. Reuven Kimelman
            Dr. Mark Kligman
            Rabbi Lawrence Kushner
            Rabbi Noa Kushner
            Rabbi Daniel Landes
            Liz Lerman
            Catherine Madsen
            Rabbi Jonathan Magonet, PhD
            Rabbi Dalia Marx, PhD
            Ruth Messinger
            Rabbi Charles H. Middleburgh, PhD
            Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
            Rabbi Aaron Panken, PhD
            Rabbi Marc Saperstein, PhD
            Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
            Rabbi Jonathan P. Slater, DMin
            Rabbi David Stern
            Rabbi David A. Teutsch, PhD
            Dr. Ellen M. Umansky
            Rabbi Margaret Moers Wenig, DD
            Dr. Ron Wolfson
            Rabbi Daniel G. Zemel
            Dr. Wendy Zierler

 

About the Editor:

Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman, Ph.D., has served for more than three decades as professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in New York. He is a world-renowned liturgist and holder of the Stephen and Barbara Friedman Chair in Liturgy, Worship and Ritual. His work combines research in Jewish ritual, worship and spirituality with a passion for the spiritual renewal of contemporary Judaism.

He has written and edited many books, including Who by Fire, Who by WaterUn’taneh Tokef, the first volume in the Prayers of Awe Series; My People’s Prayer Book: Traditional Prayers, Modern Commentaries, winner of the National Jewish Book Award; and he is coeditor of My People’s Passover Haggadah: Traditional Texts, Modern Commentaries, a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award (all Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Hoffman is a developer of Synagogue 3000, a transdenominational project designed to envision and implement the ideal synagogue of the spirit for the twenty-first century.


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding. www.huc.edu